Michael Dunlop continued his preparations for the international road racing season at Donington Park on Tuesday, where the 25-year-old gained more valuable track time on his new BMW Superbike.
Dunlop is counting on the factory-supported S1000RR to fire him to victory at the big roads meetings in 2014, starting at the Vauxhall International North West 200 in May.
The bike has been specially built for Dunlop, who will receive technical support from BMW Motorrad in Stuart Hicken’s Hawk Racing team this season.
The Ballymoney lad tested the bike for the first time last week at Mallory Park, but was restricted to limited track time due to rain in the afternoon.
Dunlop was riding in the official MCE British Superbike test at Donington - his first outing at the circuit - where he was joined by Buildbase BMW riders Ryuichi Kiyonari and James Westmoreland.
He is set to compete in the opening two BSB rounds at Brands Hatch and Oulton Park prior to the North West 200.
Dunlop, whose first roads outing this year will be at the KDM Hire Cookstown 100 on April 26, attended Monday’s official launch of the North West 200 at Titanic Belfast, where it announced that a new man of the meeting award in honour his father Robert - the most successful ever rider at the event with 15 victories - will be presented for the first time this year.
Asked whether or not he fancied his chances of claiming his first North West victory in the Superbike class on May 17, Dunlop said: “Why not? We shouldn’t be far away; the bike is really, really fast: we need to see what it’s like on the roads but I’m comfortable that we’ll be up there.
“Hopefully we’ll get a dry day at the North West and we’ll have a good go at it. The team has made me very welcome and I’m glad to be there; it’s a big move and I feel right at home. I feel that I’m wanted in the team and it’s a massive challenge for me.”
Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki rider and three-time MCE British Superbike champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne headed the times at the Donington test by 0.186s from new Milwaukee Yamaha signing Josh Brookes.
Czech rider Jakub Smrz was third fastest for Northern Ireland team Millsport Ducati ahead of Chris Walker on the Lloyds British GBmoto Kawasaki and Buildbase BMW’s James Westmoreland.
Tommy Bridewell completed the top six on the second of the Milwaukee Yamaha machines, 1.378s down on Byrne.
Dunlop was 23rd overall in the Superbike class, 3.547s off the top time set by Byrne, but has only completed a relatively small amount of laps on the brand new machine so far.
Ian Hutchinson was 21st fastest on the FFX Yamaha, 2.891s adrift of the top spot.
In the Supersport category, Carrick’s Glenn Irwin was third quickest on the Gearlink Kawasaki, 1.252s behind pacesetter Luke Stapleford with Luke Mossey second fastest.
The next BSB test will take place at Snetterton from April 8-9.